For the 4th of July we went to the Texas Embassy because, as I mentioned, we have been curious about it for years. Tex-Mex and Mexican food is hard to come by in the UK and as in the case of the Texas Embassy it's usually horribly overpriced. When we arrived they actually had security guards at the door and one searched through my handbag. Considering the current political climate and that the Texas Embassy was probably the biggest public concentration of Americans in London at the time I wasn't too surprised. The place was heaving, I could barely move due to the density of people. Most of them were Americans. The kind of Americans I avoid back home in America, so part of me wondered why I was actively seeking them out in a foreign country. I felt like I was in a giant fishbowl of American culture, like it was some kind of sideshow attraction. Most of the women were of the Sorority or ex-Sorority type and the men seemed to have just moved the frat party to England. The few British people scattered at tables here and there with their American friends all had slightly bewildered looks on their faces.
All the waiters and waitresses were dressed up in "amusing" costumes such as Elvis, cheerleaders, a cowboy, and our waiter who was a stressed out Eastern European dressed up as Uncle Sam. I could detect a faint hint of humiliation in his eyes, but I didn't have too much sympathy since I knew he was making an absolute killing on tips that evening. Needless to say the 4th of July is the busiest night of the year for the Texas Embassy and for the occasion the restaurant owner stood in the middle of the restaurant barking orders. He was a tall bald man in an expensive suit holding a cane which he shook at the waiters and cooks when they displeased him, he was like Dr. Evil as a circus ringleader. He was very intimidating.
We were 20 minutes early for our reservation so we sat down at the bar and ordered margarita classicos from the afro wig-wearing bartender. The margaritas were expensive, but no more than what we would pay for cocktails anywhere else in central London. They were also damn good. I heard right, they are the best margaritas in London. When our table was ready we sat down and I ordered a "margarita's margarita" with green apple. The appetizer we ordered was the fried jalapenos, which never came. We were given our main course and when we asked about the appetizers they were promptly forgotten again. My main course was the Plato Sin Nombre (one honey roasted pork enchilada with tomatillo sauce, one chile relleno, one crispy chicken taco), which was pretty good but ridiculously overpriced. It cost £11 which made me gasp, I couldn't help the, "but this would cost $6 back home!" comment. :) For dessert I ordered the "padre island" margarita with spiced rum and strawberries and a slice of the strawberry margarita cheesecake. We waited for over 20 minutes for our drinks and desserts to arrive, having been completely forgotten again by our waiter. I had intended to get drunk on margaritas that evening, but they came so slow that I only achieved a mild buzz. We decided that we wouldn't come back again to eat, but that we'd probably have margaritas there on occasion.
On our way back to Waterloo Station we took a leisurely stroll through Trafalgar Square. They've recently created a staircase over the street between the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square in order to make a pedestrian-only promenade. I think it's wonderful and it makes the square more inviting since cars can't drive around it. We walked across the beautiful Hungerford Bridge and down the Thames to the London Eye and then over to Waterloo to catch the train home.
Saturday morning we were still in bed when someone buzzed our door. It was an estate agent bringing a couple by to view the flat, despite the fact that it's illegal for them to bring someone by without first making an appointment. We let them look at the flat anyway, but we were annoyed and called the estate agent's office to complain. We told them that if they show up without an appointment next time we won't let them in or we might not even be home to let them in.
We relaxed on Sunday morning and later walked into the Kingston town centre to pick up a few household things in the summer sales. I also bought a pretty sheer kimono-style top with a cherry flower print for only £7. On our way home we stopped by a riverside pub where we had a few beers outside (Leffe for me) and talked for several hours about moving and our future. It looks like we'll have to rent a flat temporarily and then search for a flat to buy, the reason being that buying a flat usually takes about 4 months to sort out the paperwork, etc. and we only have 2 months left here. I would like to rent a flat closer into the city so it wouldn't cost me as much to get into the city centre. There's so many art and photography exhibits that I want to see, but the £5 train fare can be prohibitive when we're trying to save money. We figure with the market so low right now we can rent a decent flat closer in for cheaper than what we're paying right now.
Yesterday Max's parents came up from Southampton. His father applied for French citizenship several months ago and early morning today he had to go to the French embassy in London to finalize his citizenship. So they stayed with us last night and took us out to dinner at the Thai-restaurant-in-a-pub (green prawn curry - yum!) and headed off to the embassy this morning. In a few years I will be going through the same process for my French citizenship and British citizenship (I'm not giving up my American citizenship). The difference between the two is that French citizenship is free but British citizenship can cost up to £700! Bloody bureaucrats.
I felt really lonely not doing anything for the 4th of July, seeing as it is one of my favorite holidays in the States (almost all to do with barbecue and beer). I was joking with a friend that next year I'll collect a group of sympathetic expats and we can dump fake tea in the Thames.
You should come up to Muswell Hill! It's lovely up here. We love it. Then again, I'm most definitely a North London girl (although I do love me the City).
I wish I knew that you weren't doing anything, we invited two friends to come with us to the Texas Embassy but they declined saying they "heard it sucked." If we had someone else with us we probably would have stuck around for more margaritas or moved on to another bar.
& yes, bbq and beer! Also fireworks on Guy Fawkes and New Years is fine, but I think they're infinitely more enjoyable when you're not freezing your ass off.
I love your "tea party" idea.
Last time we were searching for a flat we checked out Muswell Hill and liked it, but there wasn't much available. Sometimes I feel a bit isolated being out in the Surrey boondocks, even though it doesn't take any longer to get into the city centre than it did from Hendon. I haven't looked at flats available in Muswell Hill this time around but it's on my list. :)
it's so nice to read your posts again.. always feels like i'm going on a journey..
i used to work in restaurants, so it's hard for me to go out at times like that when it's busy.. i just keep remembering when i worked in such places, thinking about the staff, and i get distracted i guess.. most restaurants just aren't made to serve so many people at once like that, so the kitchen just ends up a mess, and things don't get done properly, or at all.. as you found out. it's why i usually don't go out on certain occasions.. holidays and stuff.. but i'm not a fan of crowds also..
i hope you're able to find a place soon too..
I know what you mean, the service probably wasn't at its best because of the circumstances.. although we had heard from people before that the service was typically poor. I think it's one of the few things bringing the restaurant down.
I didn't know you used to manage(?) a restaurant. I used to work in an Italian restaurant and delicatessen and my family used to own a coffeehouse. The food industry is a tough business, it's not something I'm keen to get back into any time soon.
i just used to work in a few restaurants.. never manage or anything.. just a prep cook, worked on desserts.. catering.. stuff like that.. even a dishwasher.. but on the big holidays here.. like mother's day, which is the worst.. it's just nuts.. the kitchen prepares a week ahead almost.. not much care goes into each serving.. which i don't like.. it's just bulk prepared..
i'm in no hurry to get into that sort of work again either.. : )
Sorry- saw your name on a friends' journal, and started perusing, and this entry brought back a couple of memories.
The "Texas Embassy" is in the location where the actual Texas Embassy was for the 10 years when Texas was an independent nation. So in this case, at least, the gimmick has some decent history.
That place is so cheesy. When I was studying in London, I went with a friend who worked in their "sister restaurant" in Houston (or Dallas- They are the same place in the fog that is my mind)and had met the manager before, so we got free apps, which was a good thing, because Tex-Mex is exotic cuisine in London, and ridiculously over priced. It's funny how you start to crave things you think are dumb in your native environment- like loud Americans, or cheesy restaurants, or greasy fast-food. It's taken me 3 years of living away from Texas to stop the unquenchable craving for Tex Mex. It was by far the worst part of leaving, because you can never find it the way you get it back home. sigh.
No need to apologize. :) The Texas Embassy Cantina (Cockspur Street) isn't quite in the location of the real Texas Embassy (St. James's St.) which I think is now Berry Bros & Rudd wine company, but closeish. But yes, at least it has more credibility than most.
I couldn't believe how expensive the food was. It's strange because most of the British people I know love authentic Mexican food, but it just seems like there's nowhere to find it in London at a decent price. I keep telling my Mexican chef friend in the states (who helped cater our wedding) that he should open a restaurant in London - he would make a killing. :)
If were only visiting from the states I wouldn't have gone, but after living here it became too tempting just to see what it was like. It was an amusing experience so at least I don't really have any regrets about going. :)
I have noticed the "Texas" phenomenon. It reminds me of the excessive use of "Ye Olde" prefix to restaurant and store names.